Category Archives: The TW Review

the TW review: Our Love is Real, the Dudes, Blast Furnace

Comics. I read them. Hence the title.

Our Love is Real
Sam Humphries/Steven Sanders

I’ve heard the buzz on this one. You kind of can’t escape it. Even my good friend Joey Aulisio wouldn’t allow the room to go quiet. After letting it sit in a pile for a few months, I decided I should finally read this, and you know what, I think Our Love is Real does deserve the buzz.

To somehow explain it … this story is set in the future where AIDS has been cured, and all new types of love are running wild. People now have sex with animals, plants and even rocks. Our anchor point is a cop by the name of Jok, and we follow him through this crazy, crazy world as he reconsiders all he knows.

The excellence here stems from a blending of different genres and ideas of comics into one, smooth, exciting final product. It’s as much an art comic as it is a big budget production, and it’s as much a noir as it is a science fiction meditation. Humphries’ approach to writing takes the path of creation in which all resources and outside influences are welcomed to the table. “Love” exhales a complete breath of freshness because of that. The comic’s components, in terms of plot elements, narrative beats and genre signifiers, blend together for a wicked celebration of what fiction has to offer.

The book gives off a certain statement that I think every new writer would want to deliver: “hey, world, I can add my own voice to all this old stuff.”

Sanders’ artwork captures the script very well. The detail and locations are there when needed, yet he’s not afraid to minimize his approach for the character scenes. There’s a nice sense of design to bring out the uniqueness of the world, and I’d also say the man draws an excellent fight, meeting every beat.

At the core though, Our Love is Real tells a classic yet compelling tale of a cop who has to rethink what he previously believed right. The theme is true to the noir state of mind. Humphries and Sanders do a great job telling this story. It’s a one-shot and it reads quick, but the team drops  a number of subtle marks to give readers spots to go deeper. On top of that though is a comic full of extremes. Animal/human relations. Sex with rocks. Protests. Over the top voice overs.  It’s as ridiculous as the subject it’s exploring. Or better yet, the subject it’s fighting against. By the end of the book, Humphries and Sanders make it clear that no specific type of love is the real, right, correct way to go, and the point is wonderfully summed up by the loving pair on the last page. A transgender and a deceased man’s crystallized ashes.

The Dudes
Alex Schubert

In my attempt to read comics outside of my usual focus, I stumbled upon Alex Schubert’s work after clicking a few links, and being as care free as I am I bought a few of his comics, not knowing what to expect.

Luckily, a pleasant surprise.

With his mini comic The Dudes, Alex Schubert shows us the darker, sadder side of the typically funny and well-loved “Dude” archetype. The story is very simple, or you could even say  nonexistent. Schubert places us in a neighborhood where we observe an assortment of typical hipster, stoner kids and their miserable existences. Yet, to these Dudes, their existence is pretty important. Or at least, they make it out to be as they find used condoms and discuss threesomes they’ll never have.

Now, Schubert spells none of this out directly. Most of it you infer from the artwork, situations and comical tone, but he does a nice job of conveying the idea that way. The comic exemplifies minimalism in a very interesting fashion, applying it both in terms of the artwork as well as the “plot.” Most of the book is just a collection of drawn out moments, and the moments are so pointless to begin with that there’s no point at all to draw them out. Except, that is the point. Drawing out these moments shows us how insignificant they are, and Schubert’s deliberate lengthening of them channels that very real life importance we like to place on everything. His artwork keeps backgrounds to an absolute minimum and his layouts are as plain as can be, but it’s these touches that bring home the idea. Even the character’s dialogue is well done. Any line within the comic could easily be switched around with another as not one line is specifically designed for a particular character. This shows how truly little these Dudes have to say.

The Dudes is a nice peak into the typical American way of life. It’s a comment on what little we really do with our time on this planet and how we lie to ourselves to make us believe the opposite. The book makes you laugh while also causing you to reflect on your own choices. Not bad for 12 pages.

Blast Furnace
Ryan Browne

This could be consider a combination of the first two in terms of execution and tone. More importantly though, it’s a fun fucking read.

Blast Furnace makes its usual rounds as a weekly web comic, but I managed to pick up a print collection – which is really a mini comic – at this year’s New York Comic Con. According to Browne’s website, Blast Furnace will run for an entire year with a new page each and every week, and the entire thing is completely improvised. None of Blast Furnace is planned out or necessary thought through in terms of a plot, but damn, I must say, it’s good.

Browne’s entire base point seems to be an exploitation of badassery. The lead character wears a flaming tie and a handlebar mustache, and he goes around performing ridiculous feats of action. The first time we meet him his hands are dripping blood. The rest of the comic follows suit as Browne presents quirky situations and highlights them with accents of laughably exciting elements. Combined with the extreme though is a lighthearted sensibility of minimalism. His artwork strays completely away from any sense of rendering and instead looks like it came right off the sketch page. That’s not an insult. More comics should pack this vibe.

The look of the book and the line work used reminds the reader very well that Blast Furnace is nothing to take too seriously, just like the events in the story. Because it’s produced on a weekly basis Browne has room to go on the occasional tangent. Reading these pages in a row, you can clearly see how little this book follows a strict outline. The story goes where ever it goes. I like it, though. It feels very direct and there’s a certain flow on the pages.

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The TW Review – Moon Knight #4 – And Marc Spector goes on a date …

So I’m an issue behind? Big deal. Real life caught up with me, and the internet hit the way side. Oh well. I’m back (at least for this post), and I want to communicate my thoughts and feelings on this issue of the Brian Bendis/Alex Maleev Moon Knight series.

Marc Spector goes on a date with Maya Lopez this issue. They experience the conventional first date awkwardness. Spector attempts to sound like smooth talking Philip Marlowe. There’s some real talk after the failed smooth talk. Spector and Lopez engage in post-date action (interpret action however you wish).

The end.

This issue read fairly fast. I’m not stating such to mark the comic with a negative criticism. I, in fact, sometimes enjoy Bendis’ quick, “decompressed” issues that so many people seem to criticize. Granted, those light issues are the only narrative installment for an entire month, but I can live with quick bursts every so often. Not every single issue needs the seemingly demanded 200 word balloons or heavy plot. Every instance of a narrative, if we are to understand narrative as a living, breathing organism, is not long and padded. At some point the story, like life, slows down and meanders without dialogue or revelations and just skips along, leaving moments how they are.

I’m probably depicting this comic as some sort of avant garde, subtle display when it’s not. Remember, it’s a Bendis Marvel Comic. It’s a good comic, but in no ways artistically dramatic.

I’m just romanticizing quick, light comic book issues because that’s what I do, and even though it’s light, Moon Knight #4 still pulls off an interesting, complete thought.

Reading this issue, I recall the DVD extras of the Daredevil film. I think back to watching the “Men Without Fear” documentary, you know, the one where every worthwhile Daredevil creator – minus Steve Gerber – is interviewed, and I remember how Frank Miller commented on super hero sex and his portrayal of such through Matt Murdock and Elektra.

Miller used the classic Daredevil love story to express costume intimacy via the comic book fights we are all accustomed to. Hell’s Kitchen stood in for DD and Elektra’s bed room, and kicks and bounds marked each and every sexual move. Miller put super hero sex on the page but disguised it in a way that was culturally acceptable (not like this shit that happened last week). This same idea leaks its way into Moon Knight #4 via the end of the issue. Alex Maleev takes the circumstance of the book, the main sequence being the date between Spector and Lopez, and turns a climactic fight sequence into a post-date hook up, playing off of the cliche super hero team-up. His display of the battle feels like an intimate moment between Maya and Marc. It’s the first team-up, and both characters are partners in this rage against evil.

This single fight feels like an extension of what is to come. Marc Spector and Maya Lopez. Two nobodies on the west coast, alone, facing a great threat to the Marvel U.

But the depiction of super hero relationships is  not as smooth and sexy as Miller’s because Bendis keeps in mind Marc Spector’s flaw of character – he’s not the real deal.

Like any classic Brian Michael Bendis comic book scene, Spector and Maya Lopez have a conversation. Around this conversation, Bendis deploys something you’d easily see in a high school set teen movie: gossip. Avengers and Marc Spector’s head-friendlies appear, and Bendis has them act as a social panel to characterize our love birds as nobodies. It’s the super hero version of a 90s teen movie where the cool kids discuss the awkward “romances” of the dorks. I love it.

Because Marc Spector is the dork of the super hero community. As I’ve discussed before, Spector plays hero; he’s not actually a hero. Bendis uses that flaw to bring the character down to a amusing level by making him the loser of the Marvel U, and he now has a nice “girlfriend” in tow.

Then there’s the scene itself.

Like any situation, you cannot entirely trust hearsay in order to judge a person. We may understand Maya and Marc as nobodies before the scene, but Bendis sort of brings us back to believing in these characters via the date. It’s a very humanizing scene that starts off awkward yet evolves to cute. Spector flirts with his lady friend in a style I find familiar, and then carries on into a simulated, smooth talking act as he tries to find answers to the case he’s working. Once the mystery man thing fails, Spector stops himself and the real characters come out.

I love the dialogue Bendis plants here.

Marc: ” Let’s just cut the sass down and have a real conversation.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice, if two people who do what we do had a real conversation?”

Only two word balloons but they sum up so much of Bendis’ Marvel career.

But it’s also just a nice scene for the simple fact that it gets right what a date between two people should be. One half act, or presentation to attract, another half heart-to-heart. Bendis boils down the halves of an entire date to two pages. Decompression what?

What I’m trying to say is … I love how this issue cures Marc Spector of his loneliness. Granted, dude’s fictional. I shouldn’t give a single shit whether he’s lonely or not. But there’s something nice about the way Bendis has paired the character with somebody on his level. Marlene, Spector’s previous leading lady, was fine and interesting in her own right, but Maya makes a lot of sense to me. She’s underdeveloped, similar to Moon Knight, and she’s typecast. People know her as the deaf Avenger. Same with Marc Spector. He’s “crazy Moon Knight.” The character’s been subject to his own identity flaw in recent years – both in fictional awareness and in online comics culture.

I like that Spector now has an equal, and the series’ cast has a new, solid, unexpected addition. Bendis and Maleev have crafted a solid issue here. It sells the thought that even the losers can find companionship.

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The TW Review – Justice League #1

Edit: I wrote this review for the Friday edition of The Daily Athenaeum, so excuse the short paragraphs and partial breifness in analysis. That’s newspaper writing, people. Anyway, I liked what I wrote here, so I thought I would post it.

Read.

Justice League #1
Writer: Geoff Johns, Artists: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair

“There was a time when the world didn’t know what a super-hero was.”

The comic opens, and page one presents three panels. Panel one depicts a snapshot of a swat team cop. Two provides an overhead view as we focus in on a rooftop. Panel three zooms in on The Dark Knight.

There’s a progression here. We begin our focus on one form of physical fitness and evolve on to another. Evolve being the key word.

Batman on this page signifies something new or the ideal form of human police force, and by way of Jim Lee’s page layout, the old school swat member and Batman are in the midst of face off. He even draws them on opposite sides of the panel to give the illusion of each character staring off.

It’s humanity against super-humanity, and fear is in the air as both conflict over co-existence.

Or maybe it’s more a matter of discovery?

“Justice League #1” stands as the new DC comic book to begin an era and to excite an audience once more. It’s purpose as a product rests on the attraction of a new or lapsed audience, and it’s here to remind a populace of the super-hero concept’s true home.

While the line “the world didn’t know what a super-hero was” may not entirely ring true in our current cultural layout, the thought of the genre’s place and background may be a little perverted.

It’s the era of Hollywood. Iron Man makes more sense in a film than in print. People’s understanding isn’t very clear.

Not that it necessarily needs to be, but people have forgotten the comic book’s role in the super-hero genre. The medium and the genre don’t exactly match up for people anymore. They’re becoming their own things.

And this is perfectly fine. I’d rather people see comics as a medium then simply “super-heroes,” but still, capes are so much of the history. Both elements are forever tied to another.

This comic seems to remind us of that while also recalling the late 1930s as the super-hero genre first took flight. In some ways, “Justice League #1” says “this is the birth of the super-hero,” giving the comic this “Action Comics #1” vibe.

This statement, I feel, could be accurate, as this is the comic book, out of any comic book, that will provide people with a sense of new found discovery. And by that, I mean people discovering comics

The first page, if so interpreted by the audience party, provides a meta textual comment. It’s depicting what this comic book is intended to do: smash our world with the comic book awareness.

It does so in a semi-menacingly fashion, though.

Human beings fear these proto-gods, and the gods don’t even like each other. There’s nothing welcoming about it, but rather it feels like some sort of forced relation.

If desired, you could interpret this as a comment on the overall DC “all-new 52” relaunch.

Johns writes this comic well. Coming from me, this is a big compliment as I haven’t ever been a fan of this guy’s work. His comics hold too many monologues about nostalgia and too much “serious” character work for my taste.

The dude knows how to structure a story, though. I’ll give him that.

With “Justice League” I feel Johns channels a bit of another successful, modern super-hero team book – Brian Michael Bendis’s “New Avengers.”

Bendis’s Avengers work prides itself on indecisive, more-human-than-super-human characters. The Avengers may be the world’s greatest super-team, but in Bendis’s hands these characters must discuss what needs to be done rather than just act.

His version of the team is very human by way of its function. They almost work like politicians.

John’s brings that human concept to his version of the Justice League. While both Batman and Green Lantern still act quickly under fire, jumping from Gotham City to Metropolis in minutes in order to work, the characters’ relations are very flawed.

Green Lantern speaks of himself in the third person, and he cannot help but sound like egotistical jerk as he shows off to Batman. Batman is very untrusting and looks to work by himself rather than with Green Lantern.

Both characters are very godlike in their ability, but their social skills are so human.

Johns’s Justice League channels but also plays opposite to Bendis’s Avengers.

Just by nature of the comic’s character driven focus, I’d say Geoff Johns is totally trying to capture the the tone of Marvel Comics’ successful Avengers franchise.

I’m in favor of this first issue. While most complain of a lacking cast, I feel I read what I expected. Sure, the entire Justice League doesn’t appear, but honestly, in this day and age of decompression, did you really expect a done-in-one snapshot?

There’s enough action, question, and interesting character work to capture a reader’s attention, and Jim Lee back on art details is never a bad thing.

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The TW Review – Marc Spector: producer, maniac, pimp

Yeah, let’s do this again.

For those who read the previous “TW Review” post, I teased of two reviews. Not happening. I had too much to say about the subject below, and honestly I can come back to the other book at another time. Carry on.

Moon Knight #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Artists: Alex Maleev, Matt Wilson, Cory Petit

Marc Spector wanders between many faces. That’s the character. He exemplifies the “super hero” who lacks the skill of decision making as well as the shell trying to morph its inner contents. Moon Knight gives home to any reader struggling with the concept of identity. Any poor sap unsure of what direction he or she wants to go in can relate to the Macabre Moon Knight, especially those less than satisfied with who they actually are.

Which, really, should strike a chord with us all.

Brian Michael Bendis snapped the reigns on the agent of jet and silver three months ago, taking over a character whose seen more than a fair share of failed creative attempts. Which has been a shame. Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz crafted some wonderful comics with this character, and ever since Marvel has only published sludge for Moon Knight to star in. I’d argue the presence of some favorable bits in Charlie Huston’s run 0f 2006, but really Marvel, and the numerous creators involved, have only degraded Moon Knight’s status from subject of prestigious work to pulp joke.

The Bendis/Maleev direction appears willing to return Moon Knight to some sort of pedestal. The new found title sits ready to reclaim the glory of last decade’s Daredevil run. A book concerned with drama, street level focus, and character study. The Bendis/Maleev comic seems ready to further develop Marc Spector rather than play him as a poor man’s Batman.

It’s odd that I am only now discussing or reviewing this book. Besides Greg Bergas, I’m probably the most vocal Moon Knight guy online. I’m unsure what that says about me, that you know, Moon Knight is my peak of vocality , but so be it. Months before the release of Bendis/Maleev Moon Knight you, doubtfully, couldn’t shut me up. The news came as a blitzkrieg. The potential of Marvel Comics shined bright and friendly once again. My old stacks of MK comics found new attention. Hell, I even made big plans for this blog in the department of content.

I was all over this book and ready to read. Then it came out.

So why the clam up? The first issue gave me nothing new. Every bit of plot and concept that Marvel PR tossed to the media made it into the first issue yet nothing else. I knew going in that Marc Spector now possessed three new identities, and this concept turned out to be the big “reveal” of the series premiere. The cliffhanger shot or the pace setting issue Bendis holds such a reputation for failed terribly in my eyes.

To be fair, Bendis provided warning in the book’s prior months of marketing. I forget the exact quote, but he spoke out saying most comics give their all in the first issue, and after that they sort of trail off and no one ever talks about them again. A point which stands as totally correct. This era of comics revolves around first issue buzz. No one shows concern for issue #7 or discusses series on issue-to-issue protocol. A mission to bring back to style the issue-to-issue narrative felt like a bold one – another reason why I was so stoked for this new comic.

Still, a certain vibe was attained with the actual reading. Seeing the not-so-new, new first issue in print quelled my excitement. I understood the writer’s need not to blow the load out of the gate, but I would have liked some sort of tease or battle cry rather than a lame “yeah, you know.” It’s always nice to stand up and clap when you’re the audience, but instead Moon Knight #1 conveyed a feeling of “well, I guess we have to get this into the actual comic so it matters, huh?”.

I enjoyed #1 fair enough, but it never made me shout with glee. In my storm of reading though, I’ve caught up on the new Bendis/Maleev project. I now emote glee.

So, yeah, that’s all context for the next two paragraphs or so of review. Oh well. Issue #3!

Bendis showcases how well he can write the character in this issue. Like most Bendis comics, the plot doesn’t stretch far but that’s OK. Instead, Bendis uses extended moments to document Spector’s interactions while also setting up a supporting cast. This comic is a good example of the term we know as “decompression.” Not that it’s really decompressed, necessarily. Plot movement falls short, but the comic never wastes any time – which seems to be the main idea of “decompression.” No, instead Bendis uses decompressed story telling the way Ellis and Hitch intended it. Extended moments shine light on intimate details and highlight character ticks we will want to know. The comic gives us a close look at the newly reformed Marc Spector a.k.a. Moon Knight.

Wolverine, Spider-man, and Captain America certainly work within Spector’s newly forged system of multiple personalities, but remember, Spector’s working the west coast and strutting his stuff as a TV producer. The man has a day job, and Bendis uses the day job as a backdrop to further explore Spector’s psyche.  Issue #3 opens with a scene cast straight from Tarantino’s True Romance with Spector whizzing his way up the Californian coastline in a convertible.  On the way, Maleev makes point to detail the character’s wardrobe, and Bendis creates a scene of flirtation between Spector and one Maya Lopez (whom Spector spent the night with). The comic rolls along until Spector arrives on the set of his big, new television show. Words are shared with his assistant, and we are even privy in Spector’s work day as he actually shows concern for producing a well-crafted production. Then things turn dark. Bendis writes a flashback to show Spector’s hiring of an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Purpose? Sidekick or partner of some kind. To fully trust a partner though, Spector pushes this agent through an unnatural test. Spector tortures the man while dressed as the less than kind Bullseye. Why? To see if this potential partner spills any beans on his possible employer. The scene ends, and the ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. speaks, “man, how crazy are you?”.

The issue revolves completely around the concept of identity, or more specifically the different kinds of roles we play in our everyday lives. While that is familiarly a Brubaker theme, Bendis knows how to make it his own with his portrayal of character. Spector works as a Hollywood hotshot, but that includes many things. In this case, television producer equals working man, pimp (as in ladies man not the traditional definition), and maniac. Spector becomes Bendis’s filter for Hollywood stereotype. He represents the ideas of corporate art we all dream of. The rock star playboy comes out with Maya. The power hungry, coked-up suit plays when the lights are turned down. In the middle, a working man presents passion for his project.

Boom, boom, and boom. The issue rolls out each identity, each person, very well by way of smooth pacing. Each segment just flows right into the next.

It’s a solid way to keep to the character’s core while also providing some sense of relevancy to our world. In the day and age of super hero movies, it makes a lot of sense for a super hero to comment on Hollywood. There’s also that matter of Bendis currently developing his own television series. I’d like to think Spector’s time as a TV producer provides some sort of personal expression of Bendis’s new found experiences.  Art reflecting life seems appropriate in this situation, especially if Bendis currently suffers his own identity crisis. I’m afraid only he knows that.

Of course, the separation of roles works just as well for the fictional character as it does the real world. Oddly enough, the three roles presented in this issue match up with Spector’s original trio of masks. The pimp, the playboy totally belongs to Spector’s Steven Grant persona – the millionaire, Bruce Wayne-type who wore the hot blonde on his arm. The working man goes to taxi driver Jake Lockley, and the maniac is right up the alley of Marc Spector the loose cannon mercenary.

What Bendis has done is taken Spector’s original three personae and multiplied it by two. There are three heroes, and there are three Marc Spectors. Just like us who work within one name yet act like different people within different situations, Spector now experiences the same. While he may appear slightly more stable, Spector is in all honesty more fucked up than ever. Doubt me? The dude holds 6 personalities to his name.

And this is the guy with the head of Ultron, working the case of the West Coast Kingpin. Bendis has me by the nuts.

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The TW Review – If Spider-man could finally get his shit together …

I feel the sudden urge to write random, short reviews of new(ish) comic books.

When in all reality there exists a more than sufficient amount of review material on the weekly paper chase of the direct market, I in this instance lack concern and will contribute. Mark me up with the majority of comic book bloggery! I shall write quick hit segments that few will read and fewer will remember beyond this day of “publishing.”

This past week consisted of my mission to catch up on the monthly fodder, and I feel I should produce at least something with the probably lack luster thoughts and opinions I now possess.

So, yeah, here’s some bullshit I spent a night typing …

The Amazing Spider-man #666 – Spider-Island Prologue
Writer: Dan “the excited” Slott, Artists: Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia, Joe Caramagna

I’m a huge (not literally) Spider-man fan, in case you didn’t know. This particular fictional figure really was my first point of interest in comics. As we all begin, we’re in it for the 2-D gladiators and their excursions.  Spider-man was and still remains my dude, and there’s been plenty of, I hate to say “discussion” but I guess, discussion on the character lately – there’s a film reboot on the way and Glenn Beck suddenly gives a fuck what color the kid from Queens is. My own personal spider-sense tingles from all this talk and a new found enthusiasm for the web head boils inside me. The time is now. Let’s see what Peter Parker’s up to these days in his pulpy home of  ‘The Amazing Spider-man.’

Dan Slott writes the exact kind of comics I yearn to stay away from. Stupid recesses on why such fictional things are cool, along with useless plot updates, seem to be this scribes money making characteristic. Every time I’ve read his Spider-man, the book devolves into some mess of, “hey, let’s see what The Thing is up to! You know why? Cause Spider-man KNOWS The Thing!”.  Just stupid shit like that. He’s the type of writer who invests a little too much in the fictional world he’s left to curate a.k.a. the purest example of a fan writer. This results in a constant parade of subplot catch up.

I’m sure the dude really is nice and all sorts of fun to drink with and I totally understand the need to incorporate the supporting cast in a title such as ‘The Amazing Spider-man,’ but Jesus, God I don’t give a fuck what the reason is for Peter’s costume change between his time with the new found Future Foundation and The Avengers. I’m sure that was a run on sentence, but it’s how I going to express the point.

OK, now that I’m finished with my poor attempt at sounding like Tucker Stone, who’s a great writer by the way, let me break down and review the issue how I normally would.

The first few pages satisfy me, surprisingly. One of my biggest beefs  as a “fan” of the Spider-man character lays in Marvel’s inability to allow Peter Parker to grow up. His story, along with the core of the Spider-concept, stands most potent in the years of youth. Ditko and Lee engineered this hormonal mess of hero as a Shakespearean observation, and his saga works throughout all time as well as in the culture change and teenage uprising of the 1960s. Youth is important to the character, but I guess the fanboy connection I possess wants me to witness a changing or aging Peter Parker. I carry this urge to watch a fictional being learn and grow as if he were real rather than living a trap of repetition. Peter’s always fucking up, losing his job, not getting laid, or letting someone die. He so lacks efficiency. Again, the core, I know, but you can only read so many stories about a fuck up. You know why? Because at some point you learn this dude is always going to fuck up, and that grows so old so fast. I’d rather not read.

Slott progresses Peter Parker for a few pages, though. Right in this issue.  Peter’s recent deal is that he’s sitting comfortably with a new, fancy science research job, the gig he’s always wanted since implied way back when in 1963. Along with the gig, Parker keeps the company of a new lady friend, acts as a member of two super-teams, and kicks ass as a solo crime fighter.  This Peter Parker represents the efficient, responsible character that Marvel has potential to publish. Granted, the conflict of fucking up is lost, but maybe a responsible, non-fuck up Spider-man would encourage a little more creativity in the House of Ideas? It could pull Peter Parker in a new, interesting direction. And, for a few pages, that direction wafts hopefully before my beady, spider-loving eyes until Dan Slott progresses to suddenly make me not want such a thing.

We the readers understand perfectly well that Spider-man jams efficient, but Slott feels the need to shove it down our throats. The expected subplot, continuity parade storms on by with Slott leading the damn thing as King Same-and-Stuck. The pages flip on by. J. Jonah Jameson shouts his concern and damns the arachnid. Norah Winters, cast member and friend of Peter’s, has a douche bag boyfriend who’s secretly a villain with a goblin persuasion. Aunt May still lives. Flash “the venom” Thomspon stops by because he lives in New York. Betty Brant uses a cell phone. The Avengers play cards only after the Future Foundation hit the wardrobe. Spider-man fights in a dojo for his daily workout.

Slott literally shows us every fucking thing Peter Parker now does as well as showing us everything his cast does. And he doesn’t just show us, he takes an entire issue to show us these bland explanations continuity nerds eat up. God help me.

The issue eventually finds an end where it manages to introduce this “event” known as Spider-Island. The idea? The Jackal, spider-villain known for the infamous “Clone Saga,” desires to clone once more but this time create an entire “island of spiders!” Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this concept. Part of me says, “repetitive” and “why care,” but I hate to blow off a concept before it’s really used. I believe there’s potential in an “island of spiders.” We will see, I suppose.

The artwork is wonderful, though. Caselli captures a great sense of motion in this issue. Images feel kinetic, and Spider-man appears truly super as he swings across the landscape. The line work appears clean and distinct, and the figures drawn convey a real sense of acting. Along with the fresh colors provided by Gracia, I found the visual aspect of this issue quite satisfying.

Will I continue with Spider-Island? I must enjoy torture, because I might. Might. I’m still interested in how this concept finds use by the creative team, and I am experiencing a new found interest in Spider-man. So, yeah, I’ll go hang out with the only dude crying over the demise of Wizard, and we’ll discuss how much we hate these hero comics and how they ignore what want even though we continue to purchase them.

Spider-Island Part 2 will, most likely, be mine.

Batman: Knight of Vengeance #2
Writer: Brian Azzarello, Artists: Eduardo Risso, Patricia Mulvihill, and some dude named Robbins

Now I can type with a positive tap.

Azzarello and Risso impressed me with 100 Bullets by not only its striking narrative but its master craft. That comic book, ladies and gentlemen, hits every fucking note, and it exemplifies a collaboration where both sides truly contribute to the world building. Azzarello brought the language and tone while Risso defined the style and flow. The case remains the same on this Batman comic that, I have to keep telling myself, is an event tie-in.

Most artists portray some sort of style, and that style usually manages to label that artist’s drawings. Like, you know, John Romita Jr’s New York City stands clearly distinct from Alex Maleev’s New York City. Each artist, by way of style, possesses their own and belongs to their own artistic sphere. Risso really pulls that idea to another level where his style not just stands for “Eduardo Risso” but rather a “Risso Universe.” I get the feeling that Risso’s drawings all exist on the same plane. Not many artists communicate this idea to me. Plenty of artists have distinct styles and define looks of certain objects or figures, but only Risso strings his depictions across one common field of existence. How he does this, I could honestly make no case. Maybe it has something to do with his attention to style, whether it be people’s dress or the styling of his settings, but digging into art that far lays beyond me. Simply said, I can’t help but wander into this comic and feel right back at home in the world of 100 Bullets.

Call me stupid, but that’s how I connect to this comic. It makes sense to me, though. 100 Bullets encourages you to wonder what lies beyond its gutters, and in my wondering I stumble upon an alternate version of Gotham City.

I love how Azzarello, when on his game, tells his stories. While most comic scribes today worry about sufficient word count, Azzarello comes off as a minimalist. I mean, flipping through this issue, I guess there are the standard number of word balloons, but the content of said word balloons express far from standard.  His dialogue acts the opposite of most comic dialogue. It’s not slow or exposition influenced but rather comes off as self-existent. What the fuck does that mean? OK, most dialogue feels like its meant to be read, like somehow the dialogue itself is self-aware and knows its part of a story. Azzarello’s dialogue makes the reader feel like he or she is a true fly on the wall. The characters know what’s what, and that’s all that matters as they act out their parts. As a reader, you truly watch and piece the story together by what you see and “hear” rather than being fed everything.

A grand example of such writing resides in Azzarello’s characterization of one Thomas Wayne. Not once have we witnessed a flash back nor has Wayne directly addressed us, but from observing character interactions and the simple fact of a Bat costume we understand Thomas Wayne as an angry old man with family issues and strong memories of failure. And it’s all we need.

For its premise of alternate Earth Batman, Azzarello and Risso knock it out the park. It remains unfinished and could lose steam, but the team has gone above and beyond. Their Gotham sits clearly distinct along with it inhabitants. The comic feels more like a goddamn Elseworlds than some event tie-in. Oh, and with the addition of this issue’s cliffhanger, I can safely say I actually feel the fear and conflict of this story. Something feels at stake, and it’s refreshing for a DC cape comic.

Next: Another Batman comic and a character everyone loathes. 

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